7: All These Moments
Street-photography is as much about the things we don’t see as it is about the things we do see. The glimpse tells us just a little bit and most of us are satisfied by this. We like the mystery, we don’t need everything revealed. Perhaps this is why I love black-white pictures so much, it strips away the colors that would distract us, it gives it that dated feel. It shows us a different world even though it’s still the same one. Black-white images tells us we are dealing with something of an older time, something seemingly far away from us even if the picture was made yesterday. Black-white pictures are so crisp now, they used to be full of grain. The graininess is now considered stylish but back then it was the only quality available.
Now we can see everything so clearly and many don’t want this. They choose to make photography with traditional film, a Polaroid camera or alter their digital camera to reveal a little less. Sometimes we slow-down the shutter speed, we see time trying to keep up with the flash. It almost feels like we are messing with the foundations of time. We can alter the settings to reveal something the camera couldn’t: slow-down the shutter speed in the midst of heavy traffic at night, see it become a beautiful blur; use macro-setting to enlarge a object, the rust of an ax in an abandoned house; focus on a singular subject, blur the world around him.
The angles can mean everything to. A crooked angle might be better suited than a straight angle. Crop the picture so the focus goes on what can make the picture great. Sometimes a shoddy picture can give it more meaning than if it was perfectly set up. How do you want the subject to represented? A low angle can make him seem like an impressive man, a high-angle might make him seem like a small man. There’s the treasure of the accidental picture- a secret most street-photographers won’t tell you is that you don’t need to wait for that perfect moment, the best tactic might be to just go ape-shit on that shutter button, have fun with it, see the beauty all around you, enjoy the process.
There’s this meditation I practice about distancing myself to my thoughts, this guided voice tells me to imagine a mirror and as I look at myself, I should realize that my thoughts, no matter how important they seem, won’t alter physical reality. It won’t change me. These thoughts are just traffic in the mind. But all of us can’t but be captured by the flow of thoughts; from nostalgic musings, sudden regrets or the inability to live up to our dreams. As I’ve stated before in the previous chapters, we want to see a glimpse of their world, we want to wonder about their inner world but we must retain the mystery. It’s part archaeological, a glimmer to a world long gone. Even if the picture was made recently, the world changes faster than we think. How the streets looks today will look different a decade from now. It all goes so fast and if you don’t have a photographic memory, you won’t be able to picture how it was. Perhaps this isn’t such a tragedy yet sometimes, in my lonely hours, I find myself suddenly back in streets that are now so different, in buildings that are demolished or abandoned. It all goes so fucking fast. It’s as the great expired Replicant used to say; all these moments will be lost, like tears in rain.
There is no formula to capture these moments, if somebody tells you there are rules, tell them that they have no idea what photography is- I’m purely talking about the aesthetic matter, not the technical side of photography. There’s a science to photography but when it comes to the artist, the aesthetics belongs to him and if you can break the rules in a beautiful way, you’ve succeeded were most fail. Surely I’m not even close to such a level, but I do think it’s important to be a rebel. I remember when I was a part of a theater group, we had to be fairy-tale characters guiding kids in this theater building. I was cast as The Big Bad Wolf. I played him like a creepy child-catcher, I want to scare the shit out of these kids. Most of my fellow actors had props but I didn’t. I didn’t think I needed it. Some suggested to have fake Wolf-ears but it seemed excessive. I merely had the tuxedo, the long hairs covering my ears. One of the actors critiqued me for this. But when my scene came up I knocked it out of the park. Little Red-Riding hood was in the bathroom hiding from the Big Bad Wolf, the kids were there with their teachers, she was crying for help. I burst into the scene, banging my hand against the door. Even one of the teaches shrieked ”Jesus!” A few girls hid behind their teachers, the boys thought I was fucking cool. Later on, when the kids passed our troupe, they all pointed at me and yelled ”look it’s the Big Bad Wolf!” It proved I made an impact, it was probably, besides another theater show with the same troupe, the highlight of my small theater career. Now I’m not being presumptuous here, I certainly wasn’t the best actor- probably one of the poorest- but I did break a conventional rule of my troupe. You need to think outside the box, you need to break some rules to develop yourself as an artist. If you think you have to do it like this because your favorite artist did it, you’ll never become your own artist.
It’s experimentation, getting comfortable, fucking-up and being okay with it. Right now I’m making pictures by weird angles, surprising myself at times, getting annoyed at others. Eight out of ten times, my pictures during the month aren’t noteworthy but the two times make up for it. It takes years to be good or maybe less, I don’t know, just have fun with it. Care for the process and realize that if you truly loved it, you’ll keep onto it. You won’t give up the thing you love. There might be times, like I did, when you leave it for a while, pursue different interests- just like I did, I stopped taking pictures for two years. But if it’s real love you’ll come back to it. And if you feel bad about procrastination or not having done much in such a long time, notice this, accept it, venture into helpful thoughts (is it going to help you moping about this all day?) and move on.
And while you’re here, grab your camera and go out there. There’s so much out there and it’s all fading away. Even if you manage to capture nothing picturesque in your journey, it will train you for your next one. The next one show similar results but perhaps the one after that will be different. One day you will be better. And that moment, when you realize this, it might fade away too. You’ll doubt yourself again and you’ll quit for a long while. Then you’ll come back again and perhaps you’ll attain that self-confidence again.
These moments come and go, they fade away and never come back. Perhaps you can break the cycle but you’ll never to be aware of this. We can do so much if we are just aware of what’s really happening.
And now I must leave you, now it’s your turn to tell I’m wrong about everything. I wish you good luck on your journey. Remember: sometimes you think you are going one way, and then you find yourself in another. Have faith, be open, cherish the moment you’re here. It would be all taken away from us, but perhaps that one moment, the one that means everything, will stay somehow. A picture that never seizes to amaze us.
Picture belongs to Tom Plevnik, https://tomplevnik.wordpress.com/